I am hearing many stories from friends experiencing stress and frustration because of different opinions within a household about how to respond to COVID-19 guidance.
The conflicts between couples that are emerging. Different daily domestic conflicts, like whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher, what to keep and what to throw away, or how early is too early (or too late) to get the airport for a flight are stress points.
COVID-19 and the recommendations about how to prevent its spread are a new experience for all of us. On any given normal day, we all fall on a continuum of risk tolerance and risk aversion. Since “opposites attract” does ring true in many relationships, you have different approaches to this confusing time? You might be, like many other couples, struggling to get to general agreement about what steps to take.
Of course, now the fear and anxiety is greater and the risks are higher which means conversations can deteriorate quickly into arguments with hurt feelings, frustration and even fear.
Here are some basic techniques that can help calm tension and form greater emotional connection.
- Agree on a time to talk, when you both have time, are not rushed and can focus on each other.
- Decide who will talk first and who will listen.
- Listen to your partner. Give them time to share what is on their mind and listen not just to their words but to the feelings underneath what they are saying. Are they sad, scared, hurt, anxious, angry?
- While you are listening to your partner, try not to be thinking about what you want to say next, and watch your own reactions. Are you feeling defensive, angry, frustrated?
- Reflect back to your partner what you heard them say, using as much as their own language a possible. Then ask “Did I get that right?
- Then switch and speak to your partner and have them do the same.
This is about being both of you being heard before you being trying to find points of agreement.
Listening is hard work, even in the best of times. Be patient with yourself and each other. Assume good intentions and if your efforts at conversation go awry, take a break, calm down and try again. The goal is to be able to undersstand each other and be mutually supportive.